罗马书 8:28 是整本圣经中最著名的经文之一：“我们晓得万事都互相效力，叫爱神的人得益处，就是按他旨意被召的人。” 我刚刚是否说过这是圣经中“最著名”的经文之一？ 让我修改一下那个声明。 它是最常被引用的圣经经文之一。 不幸的是，这是很容易在不知道的情况下引用一节经文。
当我在高中时，我有一个我非常尊敬的朋友。 格雷格聪明伶俐，才华横溢，最重要的是他深爱主耶稣。 与我们其他一些基督徒朋友不同，格雷格正在为上帝而去。 如果有人在他面前有前途的事工生活，那肯定是格雷格。
大三那年春天的一个星期五傍晚，电话铃响了。 格雷格刚刚发生了一场奇怪的意外。 他非常痛苦，医生不确定他是否能熬过去。我记得就像昨天一样，我彻夜不眠，坐在医院的地板上，麻木地祈祷，盯着站在我和格雷格之间的“重症监护”标志。 我祈求医治，我坚信上帝会应允。 我从来没有想过他的回答可能是“不”。 正是如此。 几天后，格雷格来到耶稣面前。
格雷格的父亲不是基督徒，可以理解他是一个破碎的人。 我们许多基督徒都有机会与他分享。 我永远不会忘记我在基督里的一位兄弟对格雷格的父亲说：“你知道，圣经说万事互相效力。” 他的反应是可以理解的，也是可以预见的。 他既愤怒又痛苦，不仅对格雷格的死感到愤怒，而且对某人显然将他儿子的悲惨死亡称为“好”的大胆行为感到愤怒。
虽然我意识到这种微弱的安慰尝试是善意的，但它伤害了我和任何人一样。 对我来说，这是一种完全不恰当和不合时宜的轻率和麻木不仁的陈词滥调。 从那时起，在我的事工中，我看到的意外和疾病比我想象的要多得多。 而我不止一次听到罗马书 8:28 在错误的时间以错误的方式使用。
我可以坦白吗？ 有一段时间，我什至不喜欢听罗马书 8:28。 奇怪的说，我几乎憎恨它。 但最后我醒悟了。 我开始意识到，如果有问题，那就是经文的使用者，而不是经文本身。 我曾因用人类麻木不仁的洗澡水泼掉神圣真理的婴儿而感到内疚。
关于罗马书 8:28，我们至少需要了解两件关键的事情，以便正确使用它。 首先，这节经文是关于信徒的事实陈述，“那些爱神并按他旨意蒙召的人”。它是不应该扔在不信者脚下的珍贵珍珠之一。 他们不可能理解它的意义，并可能从中获得对上帝的扭曲看法，或者认为基督教信仰是一种天真的游戏，“让我们假装一切都是美好的，即使屋顶塌陷了”。 非信徒需要听到的经常被引用的经文是约翰福音 3:16，而不是罗马书 8:28。
关于罗马书 8:28 的第二个要点是，重点不是信徒生活中孤立的事件，而是所有事件的总和。 您是否看到说“每件事本身都是好的”和“万事互相效力”之间的区别？想想看。 差别是巨大的。 这节经文没有告诉我，如果我的腿断了，或者我的房子被烧毁，或者我被抢劫殴打，或者我的孩子死了，我应该说“很好”。 但它确实说上帝会使用这些事件，并将它们与我生活的各个方面交织在一起，以产生他认为对我最好的东西。
小时候，妈妈经常烤好吃的蛋糕。 在做蛋糕之前，她会把每一种食材都摆在厨房的柜台上。 有一天，我决定尝试一个实验。 我逐一品尝了巧克力蛋糕中的每一种成分。 想想看。 你吃过泡打粉吗？ 小苏打怎么样？ 面粉非常平淡，我不会试图描述生鸡蛋。与我习惯吃的甜牛奶巧克力相比，即使是“半甜”巧克力尝起来也非常苦。 总而言之，几乎所有进入蛋糕的东西本身都尝起来很糟糕。 令人惊奇的是，当我妈妈将它们以适当的量混合在一起，放入烤箱，然后放置冷却时，发生了惊人的转变。 蛋糕很好吃。 那不是神奇吗？ 虽然个别成分的味道很糟糕，但最终产品的味道却很棒！ 如果我根据个别成分来判断整个蛋糕，我永远不会相信它会很好。
你看到罗马书 8:28 的类比了吗？ 进入我们生活的试验和明显悲剧的个别成分既不“美味”也不可取。事实上，乍一看，它们通常很淡，甚至很苦。 但是上帝（我可以称他为面包大师吗？）能够仔细测量和混合这些成分，以生产出真正优质的最终产品。 他并没有要求我们立即将每个单独的事件都视为精彩。 祂确实希望我们相信，即使在这种情况下，祂也有主权在工作，并将与其他一切事物协同使用，为我们带来最大的好处。
有一次我听到一位牧师说：“我厌倦了听到人们陈词滥调地使用罗马书 8:28。” 我也是。但我并不厌倦罗马书 8:28 本身，并祈祷我永远不会厌倦。 当您使用这首具有强大爆发力的诗句（并且您应该使用它）时，请小心处理。 但无论你做什么，都不要远离它。 它所包含的真理可以改变你的整个人生观。
Is it possible to overuse a verse of Scripture? Certainly it is easy to misuse a verse, and in the process be robbed of its true riches.
Romans 8:28 is one of the best known verses in the whole Bible: “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Did I say this was one of the “best known” verses of Scripture? Let me revise that statement. It is one of the most often quoted verses of Scripture. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to quote a verse without really knowing it.
When I was in high school, I had a friend that I really looked up to. Greg was bright, talented, and most importantly he deeply loved the Lord Jesus. Unlike some of our other Christian friends, Greg was going somewhere for God. If anyone had a promising life of ministry ahead of him, surely it was Greg.
Early one Friday evening in the spring of my junior year, the phone rang. Greg had just had a freak accident. He was in a great deal of pain, and the doctors were not sure if he would pull through. I remember like it was yesterday staying up all night, sitting on the hospital floor, praying, numbly, staring at the “intensive care” sign that stood between me and Greg. I prayed for healing, and I had strong faith that God would answer. It never occurred to me that His answer might be “no.” It was. A few days later Greg entered the presence of Jesus.
Greg’s father was not a Christian, and he was understandably a broken man. Many of us who were Christians had opportunity to share with him. I will never forget when one of my brothers in Christ said to Greg’s dad, “You know, the Bible says all things work together for good.” His reaction was both understandable and predictable. He was angry and bitter, not only at Greg’s death, but at the sheer audacity of someone apparently labeling his son’s tragic death as “good.”
While I realized that this feeble attempt at comfort was well intended, it hurt me as much as anyone. To me it was a thoughtless and insensitive platitude that was totally inappropriate and untimely. Since then in my ministry I have seen a great deal more accidents and sickness than I care to think about. And more than once I have heard Romans 8:28 used in the wrong way at the wrong time.
Can I make a confession? For a while, I didn’t even like to hear Romans 8:28. In a strange sort of way, I almost resented it. But finally I came to my senses. I began to realize that if there was a problem, it was with the user of the verse, not the verse itself. I had been guilty of throwing out the baby of divine truth with the bath water of human insensitivity.
There are at least two key things which we need to understand about Romans 8:28 in order to use it in the right way. First, the verse is a statement of fact about believers, “those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” It is one of those precious pearls that should not be cast at the feet of unbelievers. They cannot possibly understand its significance, and are likely to gain from it a perverted view of God, or an image of the Christian faith being a naïve game of “let’s pretend everything is rosy, even when the roof caves in.” The often-quoted verse that unbelievers need to hear is John 3:16, not Romans 8:28.
The second essential point about Romans 8:28 is that the focus is not on isolated events in the believer’s life, but on the sum total of all events. Do you see the difference between saying “each thing by itself is good” and “all things work together for good”? Think about it. The difference is tremendous. The verse does not tell me I should say “it is good” if my leg gets broken, or my house burns down, or I am robbed and beaten, or my child dies. But it does say that God will use these events and weave them together with every other facet of my life in order to produce what He knows to be the very best for me.
When I was young, my mother used to bake delicious cakes. Before she made a cake, she would lay out each one of the ingredients on the kitchen counter. One day I decided to try an experiment. One by one I tasted each one of the individual ingredients to a chocolate cake. Think about it. Have you ever tasted baking powder? How about baking soda? The flour was horribly bland, and I won’t try to describe the raw egg. Even the “semi-sweet” chocolate tasted terribly bitter compared to the sweet milk chocolate I was used to eating. To sum it up, almost everything that goes into a cake tastes terrible by itself. The striking thing was that when my mother mixed it all together in the right amounts, placed it in the oven, and then laid it out to cool, an amazing metamorphosis took place. The cake was delicious. Isn’t that something? While the individual ingredients tasted terrible, the final product tasted terrific! If I would have judged the whole cake on the basis of the individual ingredients, I would never have believed it could be good.
Do you see the analogy to Romans 8:28? The individual ingredients of trials and apparent tragedies that come into our lives are neither “delicious” nor desirable. In fact, at first taste they are often very bland or even bitter. But God (shall I call Him the Master Baker?) is capable of carefully measuring out and mixing up these ingredients in order to produce a final product that is truly good. He does not ask us to immediately see every individual event as wonderful. He does expect us to trust that He is sovereignly at work even in that event, and will use it in concert with everything else for our very best good.
Once I heard a pastor say, “I’m tired of hearing people tritely use Romans 8:28.” So am I. But I am not tired of Romans 8:28 itself and pray that I never will be. When you use this powerfully explosive verse (and you should use it), handle it with care. But whatever you do, don’t stay away from it. The truth it contains can change your whole outlook on life.
For more on Romans 8:28 and suffering, see Randy's book If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil.